Zeenat Wilkinson (@zeenatwilkinson) is a freelance stylist and the founder and creative director of digital publication Sauce magazine, a community-based online lifestyle platform that celebrates diverse voices, offering content that hits the nail on the head of articles that have a soul, ooze vulnerability and are actually helpful and insightful. This is kind of content we want to read. Gone are the days of shallow click bait and celebrity articles that have zero relatability, and Sauce is perfectly positioned to be the voice we not just want to listen to but allow us to feel part of the conversation.
We chat to Zeenat about her personal style and how this has changed over the years, her impressive CV (she studied at London’s Central Saint Martin) and worked in publishing as a stylist for titles that include Grazia India, Vogue India, Nylon US, Remix and Fashion Quarterly, along with understanding more about colour-blindness and how we all need to talk about it.
How would you describe your style? We would love to hear the story about how you landed on your way of dressing?
My style of dressing has always been intuitive and driven by comfort but I am also heavily inspired by my surroundings. I am much more minimal and relaxed at home in New Zealand but my style can evolve when I am in India (my first home) and that’s when I embrace deeper jewel tones and beautiful hand-block prints and simple embroideries.
You have such an impressive resume and career path, do you mind sharing your educational and professional background, and what do you recall as some of the most formative experiences you’ve had that have shaped your career journey to date?
Thank you :-) After studying both fashion design and psychology, then spending some time working as a fashion stylist and editor in both London and Mumbai, I moved to New Zealand in 2012 and I worked with a handful of local titles for the first few years and then launched Sauce. In terms of formative experiences that really set the tone for the rest of my career would have to be — my time spent studying fashion at London’s Central Saint Martin. It was eye-opening, every single person at CSM (regardless of their background and country of origin) worked incredible hard and I knew I had to embrace that lifestyle and work meticulously to tick those goals. The world of fashion is nothing like what it looks on the outside, every single person works incredibly hard to make that kind of magic.
You started Sauce in 2017, a modern day content platform that provokes thoughtful conversations, storytelling and genuine connections in an inclusive space after years of working in media and being aware of the lack of diversity and inclusivity, especially around women of colour. What do you want Sauce to represent and achieve?
I want Sauce to continue to grow sustainably (as we have over the years) and share stories that ignite a sizeable fire for our generation to power forward. It’s the little thoughts, ideas and emotions that make a big impact. Representation and the conversations around it has always been a natural process and an underpinning through everything we do. That’s just who we are and it's been an evolutionary process in some sense too.
It’s been fascinating watching the evolution of digital platforms, from the giant click bait engines, to the heritage magazines trying to adapt, where do you think the sweet spot is in this space and what opportunities are there left to uncover?
Independent magazines and niche platforms with a strong voice are on the rise (Gal-Dem is the perfect example). Businesses and brands are now seeing value in story-telling and the importance of conversations rather than focusing on the numbers game. In saying that, it’s incredibly hard to do and most of them fail within the first couple of years. Funding is still an issue for most of them.
I’ve read that you’re passionate about discussing the negative impacts of colour-blindness, do you mind sharing and elaborating on this topic and how we can make change?
A healthy conversation around it can allow for liberation, healing, and free expression for people of colour. I’d say it’s more about listening to people of colour and trying to understand how deep rooted racism is in our society even today, and as we have witnessed with Covid and elections in US, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. By giving it a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist it only makes it worse.
The current stats are shocking around healthcare systems and hospitals. There are little girls and boys that continue to experience racism at school or even kindergarten — which is absolutely heartbreaking. We need to be hyper aware and continue to power forward until we can truly get to the state of colour blindness.
I am currently reading Nesrine Malik’s We Need New Stories: Challenging the Toxic Myths Behind Our Age of Discontent. I love how clearly she thinks and punches through some of the pressing issues of our time. Malik is an incredible writer, she also a Guardian columnist and publishes some wonderful think pieces.
You became a mother for the first time last year (2020) to a beautiful baby girl Aaliyah, has your wardrobe and personal style taken a shift since you became a mum or are you turning back to your old favourites?
OH YES. Comfort and speed is everything these days. Most of my daily wardrobe is neutral and footwear and accessories are just as effortless. I had to sadly let go of pieces that are figure hugging as I am still learning to love and nurture this new postpartum body.
What helps you get dressed in the morning, is there a styling tip you always stick to?
I check the weather on my weather app first thing in the morning and then dress accordingly. Any kind of oversized layering piece is key. In summer it might be an oversized white shirt and in winter, a classic blazer or oversized cashmere cardigan.
I’ve read you love loud and exciting prints and accessories and have learnt to balance these with timeless pieces, what are some of your favourite pieces in your wardrobe and the story behind them?
I used to be big on clashing prints and accessories for styling on shoots before a minimal effortless fashion became centre stage, but I am still into accessories that make a statement. DLP is local brand that I have my eyes on. Lots of texture and sculptured shapes.
What do you want out of your wardrobe?
Comfort will always be key. If I like something I will wear it over and over again. So I am always happy to invest into luxury items as I do make the most of it.
Follow Zeenat at @zeenatwilkinson and @sauce_________
Images via @zeenatwilkinson